…and it’s goodbye from me

It’s It’s an odd feeling typing these words but following the conclusion of the  Student Radio Conference later today, I’ll be bringing 7 years of direct involvement in student radio to a close.

It was a tough call and one not taken lightly, but looking at the future from the wrong side of my 20s has provided a different perspective on where I should be heading over the next few years. I won’t bother going through the reasons – there’s far far too many and most won’t be of interest.

It’s been a very weird journey – I joined Burn FM in Birmingham mainly by chance, making a very impulsive decision to go on a mate’s Sunday afternoon show (having been out the previous night until 3am and feeling rough after waking  up in I’ve no idea where). But that first time in a radio studio, seeing a “big box with slidey things that play music” (i.e. a broadcast mixer) convinced me that radio was something I should have a go at doing – even if most of that first show was spent holding my head as being drunk turned into a hangover!

That was nearly 7 years ago, during which I’ve been a Head Engineer, Head of Imaging/Production, Station Manager at Burn and an SRA Regional, Exec and Admin officer. And student radio remains just as awesome now as it was then – a quick listen to the 2008 awards entries more than proved that (even if the week spent ripping 100 odd CDs and scanning over 500 A4 pages for the judges of the 2008 Student Radio Awards battered me somewhat…)

Seriously, check out stations that aren’t your own – it’s not like there’s a lack of choice! And there may be a good idea or five to pinch…

It’s been great seeing the SRA improve too – my first event being the now mythical l 2005 Student Radio Awards night (aka the one where Greg James won). They’ve simply grown beyond recognition over the last 5 years – something very few people get the chance to see. It’s a privilege to have had that opportunity (even if at the expense of a failed degree and a 2:2).

Beyond the awards, it’s been fascinating seeing both my old station, Burn FM, and the Student Radio Association change in so many ways over a longer period of time than most people get the change to see. Both have made huge steps forward over the years, even though my station did manage a step back thanks to the university not taking too kindly to this particular story making the headlines.

So what’s changed for the SRA and student radio? I’ll limit myself to 3 points, otherwise this list would become very long!

1) The conference – in Southampton many of the sessions had current students talking about why their station was so good and won several awards at the 2005 Student Radio Awards – not exactly the best in terms of the speakers, even if the beer was cheap and easy to squeeze a pint or two between every session. Now, we have Andy Parfitt speaking this year and Ashley Tabor last… along with a firm commitment  from Andrew Harrison of the RadioCentre to support student radio stations in having access to FM spectrum, should the proposed digital upgrade take place in 2015. It’s been getting better and better.

Even so, kudos is well deserved for Surge (Southampton), URY (York), URB (Bath), LSRFM.com (Leeds) and Fly (Nottingham) – good times!

2) Affordability/Value for money – The membership fee has remained static since at least 2005. But beyond the conference and awards, the SRA didn’t offer as much as it could have done. It now offers much more, particularly as of 2008/9 with the new brand, the Chart, I Love Student Radio… not to mention successful integration of Facebook and Twitter – a search for #sracon proves that.

3) The awards – mainly in that the entry process is now online, rather than requiring CDs and relying on Royal Mail – something I’ll take partial credit for, as it was clear that posting CDs wasn’t going to work following the massive increase in numbers (300 in 2005 has become 500 in 2008 and 2009). But the change of venue to the Indigo has also made a big difference. It’s substantially larger than the New Connaught Rooms (which had a max capacity of 600) and allows the SRA to offer cheaper tickets without food (and can hold something like 1,500 people if required).

It’s been a mind-blowing 7 years (or a quarter of my life) , initially being behind the microphone, latterly representing it – and it remains a best way to make some awesome, unique content (12 hour outside broadcasts come to mind) whilst providing opportunities to go further into the radio industry and offering the industry with a cracking one-stop shop for talent.

I went to uni not knowing that Birmingham had a student radio station, let alone that student radio was widespread across the UK – and fully expecting to be spending most of my uni life pushing for  a career of looking through telescopes and doing astrophysicsy black hole creation, rather than talking into a microphone and stripping out servers, rebuilding edit suites as outside broadcast studios and pushing for a career in radio. I made the right choice.

Thanks to everyone who I’ve met, especially those of you who has been brilliant to work with. There’s too many people to list but Mark, Sarah, Matt, Kate and Tim deserve a special mention for being awesome to work with on the 2008/9 exec. The rest of you know who you are! (btw Mark’s published his thoughts on leaving student radio last week – have a look here).

Feel free to play the Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition – it’s the one song that sums up my thoughts perfectly. It’s tough to be leaving, but I do so knowing that student radio and the SRA are stronger and more important than ever – and I’m pleased I had the opportunity to have done my bit.

I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

But I thought it best to end by going back to the beginning, of how chance meetings and connections at my hall in uni lead me down a 7 year path down the road of student radio – and the start of my involvement with the SRA 5 years ago, which started with the now mythical 2005 Student Radio Awards night (aka the one where Greg James won).
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~ by Ian on Wednesday 31st March 2010.

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